(The post below is taken verbatim and in full from http://www.quora.com/CouchSurfing/What-is-happening-to-Couchsurfing. The author of the post is anonymous and while his/her post is an opinion piece, as opposed to objective, I think it’s a good summary and explanation of what’s been going on. I recommend checking out the link above to see how other people, including the author, Peter, of “Couchsurfing: The Meltdown Continues” and CS employee Sam Houston, has responded.
Another good opinion Quora post is here.)
Question prompted by this critical piece: Couchsurfing: The Meltdown Continues
Benchmark Capital is trying to turn a bottom-up social phenomenon into a top-down, professionally managed Internet “Product”.
The old Couchsurfing thrived with a very haphazard and underfunded management structure precisely because local volunteers around the world believed they were part of a cause bigger than profit. Local collectives were highly tied to their local communities.
The “bottom-up” folks aren’t happy about this. In the grand scheme of things, management doesn’t care. Management will say they care, but they only care to the extent that they can transition smoothly. An organization where the ground-level decision are made by autonomous volunteers is not compatible with a high market valuation.
The goal is to manage PR well enough to avoid meltdown long enough to get rid of all the noisy troublemakers, while growing userbase enough to show the market the numbers they want to see.
The ultimate goal will be to be acquired or go public right at the peak of user growth, just like MySpace. VC and MBA types are clueless when it comes to judging the true health and stability of a social network. They understand “metrics” not “quality human interaction”. But that doesn’t matter as capital markets and large acquiring corporations are even more clueless.
The technical architecture of the new systems is much better, but paradoxically the “professional” product development process fixes things that were broken on purpose. In other words, Couchsurfing evolved around certain quirks and inefficient processes that actually became critical to the health of the social trust platform.
All of the original staff and founders have been fired or placed in gilded cages. They did not leave voluntarily. The most active volunteers in the organization are the most upset. A newly hired “community manager” is tasked with managing blowback on all social media platforms. That should tell you what is really going on.